February 10, 2004 (STAR) EVERYONE KNOWS By Robert O’malley - Asian call centres (First of two parts) This is the third year of the Asian Call Center Review. The report was initially produced in response to a lack of information about the potential locations for offshore call center work. The report has received widespread praise for its work detailing the pros and cons of each country in Asia from Pakistan heading east to Japan. The offshore call center industry has matured amazingly quickly, posing new opportunities and problems to the main countries.

This year’s report takes a different angle. Previous reports analyzed the results based on each of the seven different elements but this report analyzes on a country by country basis with particular emphasis on the most serious contenders and little discussion of the low-ranking countries. The Philippines The Philippines has one major advantage over India and the other potential locations, and that is the Filipinos. Filipinos speak far better English than those in any other country in Asia and the Philippines is by far the most "Westernized" in the entire continent. Filipinos don’t need additional English classes or to watch Western TV programs because they do this already as naturally as any American.

The Philippines is still slightly more expensive than India if you examine the figures from a distant perspective. However, a typical Filipino graduate has far superior communication and English skills than his Indian counterpart and when comparing like-for-like, the Filipino offers better value for money.

The other major factor is that the Philippines has far fewer vendors than India but it appears that more companies may try to jump on the call center bandwagon, which may squeeze the labor supply, particularly in Metro Manila. Other urban centers such as Metro Cebu and Angeles City seem determined to offer increased capacity.

There is concern about the political instability in the Philippines but this has had no operational impact on the large number of call centers already active in the country. The presidential elections are upcoming but it is unlikely that any of the candidates will try to undermine the industry, which is providing much-needed jobs.

Over recent years, the local currency (the peso) has steadily declined in value to around 55-56 to a US dollar but this has only made the country even more competitive.

All of these factors combine to retain the Philippines as by far the most suitable destination for English-speaking call center activity in Asia. India India dropped in a few areas but stayed at the number 2 spot. However, it must be stated that India would have moved down behind Sri Lanka if it had not been for the political upheavals there in the past few months. It did improve its telecommunications. The major telecommunications companies know the potential of India’s call center industry and have been putting in vast sums of money to take advantage of it.

The key to the success of India is that it has proven success already. However, unlike the Philippines, it has had a series of major foul-ups, mainly due to the quality of the individual vendors. But there are some issues with India, which means it is still behind the Philippines in some ways.

The Indian market is likely to grow at 100 percent year on year for a couple more years before growth slows down.

India’s main problem is that there are now too many call centers seeking two few suitable call center agents, and the problem is likely to become even more acute with continued triple-digit growth.

In our next column, I will feature the analysis of the other countries included in this report.

* * * Robert O’Malley is the COO of Asian Call Centres, a subsidiary of Active Business Solutions Inc. and a member of Yapster e-Conglomerate Inc. You may contact him at

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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